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(35) Searching For Family and Home With Cuddles
We’ve come to the part where I’m going to embarrass myself—a lot. There is, dear reader, no way around it. I promise you my writings aren’t about my dating life but I dated a lot when I was younger and it mercifully slows down considerably as I get older. These relationships are as important as my schooling or my entrepreneurship because in many ways they formed me. Who we keep in our lives – and who we kick out – shapes how we think, how we behave, how much or how little we think of ourselves.
So, I’m not very proud to admit that one of the vagabonds – Poopie – I decided to date for a short while. Ok, I fessed up. I can’t tell you what I saw in Poopie then or now. He was kinda helpless, silly and sort of cute. He wasn’t too bright but he was fun. Poopie was also Cuddles’s sidekick and their non-street names were both Ryan. I’d like to call Poopie “Ryan” as its embarrassing to be reminded of my mistakes but I earned them so I’ll keep it consistent.
Poopie left town to go on some sort of mission. He assured me he would return triumphant. But alas he did not. Poopie taught me what it was to be used for my resources, of which I then had very few. Once Poopie got what he wanted from me he left. Some people will mine you and move on.
I kept up my word and waited for him, until I heard rumors that he was hanging in Arizona with no plans of return, triumphant or otherwise. I confided in Cuddles how angry Poopie’s departure made me. Cuddles promised me he’d help me track Poopie’s down so I could properly end it with him.
Cuddles remained with Pam for a while until he met someone named Spider. This development enraged Pam and she kicked not only him but everyone out of the house. They were back on the streets.
I was back with my mother. Things were predictably terrible. She returned to her usual routine of kicking me out of the house and calling the police again. I tried going to school, but it got to be too much. No matter how hard I tried, she was there, working step by step to destroy whatever academic future I might have had. And, for once, she succeeded. Mr. Chadwick, my school counselor who got me into summer school, begged me not to drop out. He urged me to go to an alternative education program where kids were taught in a greenhouse for 2 hours a day and then the rest of the time they could work or try to manage their lives somehow.
When I didn’t have a home, I slept on the top of a slide that looked like a castle at a nearby playground or at a place called the Mothership. The Mothership was a party house which housed 3-4 punk rockers who were all older than 21. I paid my rent the same way Cuddles paid his—with my body and without my dignity. Disgusting, but better off than dead. The man who ran Mothership, Tony, was probably 25-years-old at the time let me stay at the house until he thought better of it. Realizing that sex with minors was ill advised he asked me to leave. I begged him to let me clean the house, wash the dishes, anything so I could stay and not have to be outside in the elements again. He let me stay on the couch for a few more days and then kicked me out altogether. To say that I hated him is an understatement, but I suppose he prolonged my life in the saddest way possible. It wasn’t until I myself was 25 that I then realized how gross what he did was. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
Naturally, the police would find me again and again. I’d get returned to my mother and the cycle would continue. Rinse and repeat, rise and repeat. On and on again.
The brightest moment of this period is that I landed my coveted dream job at Dab Nabbits. The job I wanted for so many years was mine at last! Dave, the owner, caved and hired me to work three days a week, paying me me $5 an hour in cash under the table. It wasn’t much but it was enough for me to buy many of the food things I needed and toiletries. Even better, neither he nor I were paying taxes. He paid me daily from of the cash register, so I always had a little cash on me.
How did I land my dream job? Who knows, who cares. Maybe Mothership Tony quit. Or maybe he was fired. It didn’t matter. I finally got the job. Maybe he even got the job for me because he felt guilty. I don’t know but I loved that job so much and I managed to hold it down until the night I was put into a girl’s home once again.
Sometimes you have enough, and I had had enough. It was time to leave my mother before she could leave me again. I wanted out of her orbit. So, I called Cuddles and we planned my escape. He bought a bus ticket to Phoenix and told me that he’d retrieve me from school before I had to head back to the center. I was back where I started running away once before—the same horrid place that I had to stay before heading to live with my grandparents. Like jail, it was a place of nightmares. A lot of people were more troubled than I was.
Cuddles, a man of his word, picked me up and took me somewhere to shave my head. It would be easier to get away if I was disguised. All of the officers at this point knew who I was, so I had to hide and be stealthy.
On the day we made our big break, we headed to the Greyhound station and I, was, in fact, nabbed by an officer named Officer Pratt. My shaved head routine didn’t fool him and he quickly made me. I thought I was home-free until I felt that grip on my shoulder. “Cyan, my favorite Cyan, where oh where are you going?” he said, more rueful.
I begged him to let me go. I told him how terrible my life was and tried to appeal to his heart, but he told me he didn’t have a choice. He had to take me to juvenile detention. I spent the next 48 hours in a jail cell with girls who promised to harm me. I slept little. My mother came and got me out, unceremoniously, and before they released her to me, Officer Pratt came in to give me a hug .
“Wow, you weren’t wrong Cyan, he said. “She’s terrible. I’m so sorry and I wish I could do more.”
Yeah, me too. He spent about ten minutes with her and figured out pretty quickly that she was not an ordinary mother.
I summoned my acting skills and put on a show. I told my mother everything she wanted to hear—and snuck out that night to meet up with Cuddles to make a second attempt. Number two worked. Cuddles picked me up in a station wagon which belonged – though who could say what belonged to who in that crowd -- to a vagabond who went by “Dad.” Dad, who had moved on to a commune outside of Santa Fe, wouldn’t be needing it.
It was on! I was aboard my first ever Greyhound ride en route to real freedom, hopefully never to return to Flagstaff, never to see my mother again. I was moving on making the most of what little I had -- a backpack on my back. I wasn’t alone; I was with Cuddles. I held him as tightly as I held my hope. To surrender my grasp on either was to let it all fall apart.